2018 will mark the 20 year anniversary of our victory in battle with necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh-eating bacteria — thank God. This site has been up and running since about 1999 and we’ve been privileged to serve tens of thousands of visitors and correspond with hundreds of survivors, friends, family members, and others who just want to understand a little something about this intrusive, rude, cruel, virulent, deadly disease. Sometime around October 2017, I’ll be parking the flesheatingbacteria.net URL — If you would like to continue following our saga, the best place to go will be our Facebook page, Overcoming Necrotizing Fasciitis. I’ve also migrated all the pages and posts to my personal page at BoSalisbury.com.
Back in October, I wrote about an injury to my reconstructed left leg that left a hole over my superior and inferior retinaculam (top of my foot, at the ankle), which revealed my tendon, sliding back and forth, as I moved my foot (shivers). As a necrotizing fasciitis survivor, one becomes something of a wound care specialist and, though I’ve gotten along treating myself for nearly 20 years, this one required more expertise than I have.
So, I visited my general practitioner to get a referral to a plastic surgeon, because I felt a graft may be required. But, the wound began coming together by that time and my GP was able to really help it out with some minor surgery in his office. After the removal of some hypertrophic tissue at the top of the wound, the skin was able to grow down to cover the ulcer.
Well, here we are a little more than four months after the initial injury and the wound has closed. Along the way, I learned a few important lessons from the fabulous staff at the Sierra Nevada Wound Care Center. This was the first time I’ve used silver gel extensively and another one of those amazing new medical marvels, the ionic silver gauze sponge. At the center, they treated me with a silver sponge, but those were a little pricey for me and I just used the sterile generic sponge dressing with silver gel at home.
Later, when the moisture was no longer degrading the ulcer, I switched back to my old friend, Xeroform. That petrolatum/bismuth impregnated gauze was so amazing on donor sites, when I was “essentially skinned alive from the tops of [my] toes to [my] chest” back in 1998 (the chilling post-op transcription by one of my surgeons, following my skin graft operations). On this wound, it provided a nice clean environment to grow skin. Back in the day, Xeroform cost about 10 times what it does now, so I’ve stocked up on my old friend and will use that, whenever my skin breaks down in the future.
Even though wound care gets tedious and is sometimes very depressing, I’m grateful to live in times when there are so many wonderful people to help and ingenious medical developments coming online.
“On day four, the bacteria halted at the top of my thigh — Dr. Kellermann believes it was a miracle. That day, the surgeon brought Dr. Kellermann in to show him that the infection had moved all the way up into my lower back. The outside border and time of the examination had been written on my skin with an indelible marker. “We are taking him in for a final debridement, but he is not going to live. It’s like trying to stop a freight train with wet tissue paper,” the surgeon confided. One of the nurses in the burn unit ICU gave my wife the same grim prognosis, motioning with her hand up the left side and lower back. Denise only remembers the conversation, but not what was said. She did not understand, at that point, that my death was virtually assured because of the size and location of the infected area; She thought the nurse was simply keeping her updated.
Two hours later, the surgeon emerged from the elevator and sat down with everyone in the waiting area. “I’ve been a surgeon for many years,” he softly said, shaking his head over and over. “I’ve never seen anything like this. We searched for hours and the infection is completely gone.” Dr. Kellermann cast all sense of professional propriety aside, and began leaping and shouting down the hallway, “Praise the Lord!” Scott gathered everyone together for a prayer of thanksgiving and as he recorded, along with the rest of these events in his journal, “We talked about how a miracle had been witnessed by us today and from this time forward, Bo’s life and all our lives would be forever changed.”
From Our Story
We had an assignment in my 2 dimensional design class to come up with a non-fiction book cover, which emphasizes the sub-title over everything else. The goal of the exercise was to experiment with visual hierarchy or placing emphasis on the most important elements in a commercial design. I haven’t given up on my goal to write a book-length account of my brawl with NF. This would not be the cover – for one thing, the image is not mine. And, I think I would have a different sub-title and put that second or third in the visual hierarchy. However, I like the title 72 Hours, connected to the image of a ticking clock. As I tell people who wonder if I’m still contagious, “you have 72 hours to kill it or it kills you.” When NF strikes, the clock starts running and you have roughly 3 days to stop the onslaught — after that, it’s over. The bacteria is eliminated or the bacteria and its host both die. So, we’ll see about that book now.
Do you know of a school, church or other organization that may want to hear the harrowing story of how one man was blind-sided by the flesh-eating bacteria and lived to tell about it? I’ve shared our story a number of times, including an annual gig in science classes at our local middle school during “bacteria week.” More than once I was followed the next day by that gripping video drama, Killer Kitchens. Well, I do that sort of thing and, if I speak to your group, I promise to be clean shaven, appropriately dressed, and I’ll bring a version of the tale that is relevant and engaging. Contact me with any requests or invitations and I’ll see if we can work something out.
I found some forgotten photographs, while going through my files (I’ve put this off for about ten years). Well, I came across this one of me being shaved by someone outside the frame. There’s actually a lot going on in this photo that takes me back to the experience and is probably triggering some symptoms of PTSD right now!
The first thing I noticed is that my sheets are clean and there is a new, baby blue “chuck” on the bed. This tells me that Denise has already given me my sponge bath and they’ve removed the bloody, nasty, filthy sheets – the first of two times they would do that each day, ripping them off open wounds and scattering dead skin and stuff everywhere. Yes, I was a disgusting mess and having a clean bed twice a day was a little bit of heaven – I’m not kidding.
Second, I notice that there is Xeroform dressing stuck to my stomach and open wounds, so I’m probably still having skin grafts done. They really liked the skin on my stomach and right thigh, so they kept coming back for more and the donor sites are a nice, bright, sensitive red. Also, I’ve got a sheet over me, which indicates I’m still open and pretty much naked (humiliated).
Finally, someone else is shaving me, which means my right arm is not working at this time. My shoulder appears to be wasting and I’m beginning to look like a concentration camp survivor. I won’t have the pallid, Auschwitz look for another month or so. A little further down the road, I will be able to drag my right arm onto my chest with my left, prop it up, and shave myself. Yes, those were three of the most memorable months of my life and there may be some life lessons in there for others.
Overcoming Necrotizing Fasciitis is being overhauled, using WordPress. That means I will be able to blog occasionally and expand the resources we offer to victims of necrotizing fasciitis (the flesh-eating bacteria), as well as their family, friends, students and medical professionals. I’ll be expanding the site over the next month or so, but you can read our story right here. Please stop in and visit often.